For nearly a decade, the full-time employment rate of autistic adults has stagnated. A survey we carried out in 2007 indicated that just 15% of autistic people were in full-time paid work. Shockingly, in this year’s survey, the figure was just 16%.
A similar number are in part-time employment, giving an overall employment rate of 32%. And while full-time work won’t be right for everyone on the autism spectrum, four in 10 of those working part-time feel under-employed. Others feel they are in low-skilled work and employers don’t see their abilities. They see their autism. They see a problem.
Meanwhile, employers have told us that they are worried about getting things wrong for autistic employees and that they don’t know where to go for advice. Autistic people are overloaded by too much information at work, and employers don’t have enough.
The UK Government has made a very welcome pledge to halve the disability employment gap by the end of this Parliament, meaning that they have to shift the disability employment rate from 47% to 64%. But the autism employment gap is even wider. For the number of autistic people in work to reach 64%, the Government will need to commit to doubling the number of autistic people in employment by 2020.
Both Government and employers need to take specific action to make this happen – without it, recent history tells us that autistic people will continue to be left behind